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Inversion Yoga Poses

Supported Headstand

Standing on your head in Salamba Sirsasana strengthens the whole body and calms the brain.

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Salamba Sirsasana (Supported Headstand) is an energizing inversion that relies on the strength of your upper body and core, while centering and focusing your mind.

Though there are many physical benefits, including building leg, arm, and core strength, this is a challenging pose that you must approach with a “safety first” mentality. The key to this asana is to avoid placing weight on your head and neck. Instead, let your arms and shoulders hold you up.

Supported Headstand basics

Sanskrit: Salamba Sirsasana (sah-LOM-bah shear-SHAHS-ah-nah)

Pose type: Inversion

Targets: Core

Why we love it: The most fun way to practice? Try headstand in a doorway. Walking the feet up the doorjamb and into the pose makes it possible to do with support and without relying on momentum to kick myself up into it,” says Tamara Jeffries, Yoga Journal‘s senior editor.

Join Outside+ today to get access to exclusive pose information, including our complete guide to Supported Headstand, featuring video instruction, anatomy know-how, and additional pose variations. 

Pose benefits

Supported Headstand improves body awareness, circulation, and posture. It can help reduce swelling in your ankles and feet, boost energy, fight fatigue, and build confidence.

Supported Headstand: Step-by-step instructions

  1. Start on your hands and knees in Tabletop. Lean forward and place your forearms on the floor in front of you. Bring your hands together and interlace your fingers, cupping your palms.
  2. Place the crown of your head on the floor with the back of your head against your cupped hands. Press down with your forearms and elbows and allow your head to come slightly off the floor.
  3. Tuck your toes, lift your knees, and straighten your legs. Then walk in toward your head until your hips are straight above your shoulders.
  4. Maintaining your weight on your arms (not your head!), bend your knees and use your core to lift or hop your hips and legs off the floor. Keeping your legs together and knees bent, lift your legs up so they are directly over your shoulders.
  5. Find your balance here, shifting your weight as need be.
  6. Hug your thighs together as you straighten your legs.
  7. Stay up as long as you feel comfortable and strong. To release, use your abdominal strength to bring your feet back down to the floor slowly.

Beginner’s tips

  • Use support. Practice against a wall or in a doorway (see above). Take one foot, then the other away from the wall as you find more strength and balance in the pose.
  • Start small. Try to stay up for 10 seconds, then gradually add 5 to 10 seconds at a time. It’s better to hold a solid 20-second pose than a three-minute pose that lacks integrity.
  • Exit with grace. Use your abs to lower the legs in a smooth motion. Come down with an exhalation, without losing the lift of the shoulder blades.

Teaching Salamba Sirsasana

These cues will help protect your students from injury and enable them to have the best experience of the pose:

  • Press the lengths of your inner and outer forearms into the mat, while trying to lift off the mat. The combination of expansion and contraction will help you maintain integrity in the pose.
  • Do an honest assessment of your physical, mental, and emotional state each time you practice. Avoid the pose when you are stressed, your sleep is compromised, you are fatigued, or other factors are affecting your well-being.

Variation: Supported Headstand prep

Woman in green tights and white shirt in a modified headstand,Salamba Sirsasana variation.
(Photo: Eleanor Williamson)

Practice finding your balance and equilibrium with your knees bent and your legs tucked as close to the torso as possible. Keep a neutral spine.

Preparatory Poses

Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)

Forearm Plank

Dolphin Pose

Counter Poses

Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)

Balasana (Child’s Pose)

Join Outside+ today to get access to exclusive pose information, including our complete guide to Supported Headstand, featuring video instruction, anatomy know-how, and additional pose variations. You’ll also get access to members-only content, sequences, and classes, a subscription to Yoga Journal magazine, meal plans and recipes, and more.